TOURISM | Tourist arrivals to the Caribbean fell by 65.5 percent in 2020
MONTEGO BAY, March 17, 2021 - The Caribbean Tourism Organization, CTO, says the impact of COVID-19 on the region’s travel and tourism industry has been characterised by empty hotels and restaurants, deserted attractions, closed borders, laid-off workers, grounded airlines and crippled cruise lines.
In its Caribbean Tourism Performance Report 2020, the CTO noted that the impact was particularly evident during the period of April to about the middle of June, when there was literally no activity in some destinations.
“While we saw some fluctuations in the levels of visitors for the remaining months of the 2020, the influx of visitors has not reached levels even closely comparable to those being experienced prior to March 2020. In fact, some destinations remain closed to visitors, with limited airlift primarily for repatriation of locals and cargo,” the report said.
It noted that “cruise lines plying Caribbean routes remained non-operational due to a strict ban imposed by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC).
In addition, the CTO said “with government restrictions both in the Caribbean and globally reducing, and in many cases, preventing travel for large periods of time, the Caribbean had a significant drop in arrivals in 2020, although the region performed better than any other region in the world.”
“Data received from Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) member countries reveal that tourist arrivals to the region in 2020 fell to just over 11 million, a decline of 65.5 per cent when compared to the record 32.0 million tourist visits in 2019. Still, this was better than the world average of 73.9 percent decline during the same period,” the report pointed out.
“This lower rate of decline in the region can be attributed to two key factors: a significant portion of the Caribbean’s winter season (January to mid-March 2020) saw average levels of tourist arrivals when compared to 2019, and the fact that the main (summer) season in other regions coincided with the period where there was normally very limited international travel,” it noted.
The CTO report pointed out that the fall-off in tourist arrivals in the region began in mid-March, and pointed out that the second quarter was the worst-performing with arrivals down by 97.3 per cent.
The report informed that “cruise tourism was buoyed by the performance in the first three months of 2020, particularly the month of February, when there was a 4.2 per cent rise in visits. However, a 20.1 per cent fall in the first quarter was followed by no activity for the remainder of the year as ships remained non-operational. The overall result was a 72 percent slide to 8.5 million cruise visits, when compared to the 30 million visits in 2019.”
The CTO has estimated that visitor expenditure across the region declined by 60 to 80 per cent, in line with the decline in stayover and cruise arrivals. Preliminary data indicates that the average length of stay for 2020 remained at roughly seven nights, the same as in 2019.
The Caribbean’s performance in 2021 will depend largely on the success of countries in controlling the COVID-19 virus and there are some encouraging signs like the vaccine roll-out taking place in North America, Europe and the Caribbean, the report said.
“However, this must be tempered by some other factors such as: lockdowns in our key source markets which are expected to continue into the second quarter, international travel confidence not expected to pick up until the summer 2021, a steep fall in the number of people planning to travel abroad and the possible requirement by the authorities in our key markets for their citizens to vaccinate before travelling abroad.”
The CTO reeport said that “with these factors taken into consideration, our initial forecast is for a 20 per cent rise in arrivals in 2021, with a similar increase in visitor expenditure, when compared to 2020.”